The Shire of Kalamunda and City of Belmont have opened communication regarding local government reform

THE Shire of Kalamunda and City of Belmont have started down a difficult path towards reconciliation after months of hostile behaviour toward one another.

The two councils have been thrust together by Local Government Minister Tony Simpson’s edict last month that they would merge from July 1 next year.

Kalamunda was ‘outraged’ by Belmont’s submission to the Local Government Advisory Board to abolish the Hills Shire, effectively setting up a hostile takeover.

Shire President Sue Bilich had described the proposal as ‘a serious slap in the face’ and ‘disrespectful to our community’. City of Belmont Mayor Phil Marks had countered that it felt ‘under attack’ by the Shire of Kalamunda.

‘Kalamunda consistently refused to discuss this (boundary) issue and stated that they were not prepared to negotiate on the matter,’ he said.

However, both councils confirmed this week they had entered into negotiations to develop a plan of action for reform. Kalamunda was tight-lipped about the details but confirmed its representatives had met Belmont officials twice ‘to discuss a way forward’.

The Shire had also met Kalamunda MLA John Day to discuss concerns about the prospects of a wardless local government that could see unbalanced councillor representation following the merger.

Ms Bilich said she and Shire chief executive Rhonda Hardy had met Cr Marks on October 29 and again last Monday to set in motion the formation of an implementation committee.

She said the Shire was co-operating with Belmont ‘for the sake of goodwill and good governance’.

‘It is prudent to start work on the massive task we have before us,’ she said.

Cr Marks said the Minister’s decision ‘is going to need careful analysis to understand all the implications’.

He said the City had consistently stated its view that it did not see any need to merge with any other local government and if forced to do so favoured an electoral process that resulted in equal representation on the new council for both Belmont and Kalamunda.

Mr Day said he had taken the concerns of both councils to Mr Simpson.

‘I would much prefer a ward structure, as this allows for greater certainty about protection of local identity and connections. It is possible for a ward structure to be established at a later date ” if there is agreement to do so,’ he said.

Merger could cost $7M: Page 12